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Seaweed Farming In Placencia

The Placencia Fishermen’s Co-operative (locally known as ‘the Co-op’) has launched a seaweed farming venture in the waters off the southern coast of Placencia. Their initiative aims to bring an environmentally-friendly source of revenue to the economy of the peninsula.

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The Co-op aims to produce and harvest a yearly crop of 100,000 square feet of seaweed. When a crop is ready, divers harvest the seaweed plants by hand and take them back to the surface, where they are dried in the sun. A new processing facility, funded through grants, has been built to process dried, harvested seaweed into a gelatinous or liquid form for sale. These products are designed mostly for local consumption, but the Co-op hopes to eventually expand into the regional and perhaps international export market. The Co-op recently gained the approval of the international organization OCEANA, who were so impressed with their work that they donated a recently-decommissioned bottom trawler, the Northern II, for use in the Co-op’s new seaweed farming venture. The Co-op has gladly accepted the donation, acknowledging the huge environmental significance in the conversion of a relic from the destructive days of bottom trawling, which was banned in 2010, to a vessel that will be used in an economic venture that stands as a pillar of sustainable development in Belize.

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The variety of seaweed that is typically cultivated and harvested for use is different from the unsightly, dirty grass that is commonly found in many places along the beach. The species that is currently being farmed by the Co-op is Euchuma Isoforme, which grows in clumps on artificial lines that criss-cross to form a grid. This species has had a history of applications that most people aren’t aware of. It has long had huge culinary significance in East Asia, where it is used to prepare traditional foods such as sushi. It has also been cultivated and harvested for the extraction of alginate, agar, and carrageenan, substances that are used as food additives in products that range from confectionery, desserts, beverages, and salad dressings, to meat and poultry products, sauces, and dairy items. Agar has also been used as a culture medium in laboratories.

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Furthermore, seaweed is a source of iodine, which is highly necessary for proper thyroid function. The plant has also been shown to have curative properties for tuberculosis, arthritis, colds, influenza, worm infestations, and even tumors and radiation poisoning. It has also been useful for dressing wounds and for the production of dental mounds.

Other uses of seaweed include for compost, or for burial in sand dunes to combat beach erosion. It is also an ingredient in toothpaste, soap, cosmetics, and paints.

In Belize, seaweed has been traditionally blended with milk to produce a delicious and refreshing shake, sold in recycled bottles all over the country by street vendors.

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Hatchet Caye is immensely proud of the work that the Co-op’s fishermen are doing, and is dedicated to contributing in any way possible to the growth of this exciting addition to our aquaculture sector. One of the Co-op’s seaweed farms is located near Hatchet Caye; given our proximity to their operations, we take it upon ourselves to act as assistant stewards in their venture and do our best to protect the area from poachers.

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Contact us to find out more about the Placencia Fishermen’s Cooperative, the seaweed farming initiative, and about what you can do to help their cause.

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